Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Tree Stories

"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
~ Khalil Gibran

Just when I thought that I could not possibly fit another item into my already packed weekend schedule, the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Nature Guides announced that it was holding another botany workshop, entitled "Getting To Know The Local Stars of FRIM", conducted by my friend, FRIM botanist Lim Chung Lu. And so in between organising the office departmental retreat, the MNS Selangor Open Day and doing animal care work at the SPCA, I managed to arrive at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) in time for the much-anticipated workshop on indigenous flora.

(Dyera costulata)

The Jelutong is a tall deciduous tree with relatively light and soft wood. Its wood is used in pencil production, and its resin is chewed as gum. The leaves of the jelutong are spatulate in shape and whorled in arrangement from the end of the twig.

The stingless bee frequently chooses the trunk of the Ironwood (Local name: Tembusu Padang, scientific name: Fagraea fragrans) to build its home due to the deep fissures in the bark.

The Ironwood (Local name: Tembusu Padang, Latin name: Fagraea fragrans) has deep, steep-ridged fissures in its trunk. Its wood is hard and frequently made into chopping boards.

The Damar Minyak (Agathis borneensis) tree has dippled bark and ovate leaves. It produces softwood timber, and its aromatic resin is said to ward off black magic and evil spirits.

Intact male pollen cones of the Damar Minyak (Agathis borneensis).

The Belinjau / Meninjau (Gnetum gnemon) tree, from which we get our belinjau crackers.

The Mata Lembu (Firmiana malayana) has tri-lobed leaves with a heart-shaped base. It sheds all its leaves during the dry season.

Upun Batu
(Upuna borneensis)

The Upun Batu is a dipterocarp with heavy hardwood. Its bark has a cracked and flaking appearance. It is listed in the IUCN Red List as endangered.

So that's where the smell of garlic toast came from! The fruit of the Kulim / Bawang Hutan tree (Scorodocarpus borneensis) smells strongly of garlic, and is said to have antimicrobial qualities.

"Skorodos" is Greek for garlic.
"Karpos" means fruit.

There was an immediate and perceptible drop in the temperature when we stood under the trees. Each part of the tree plays a role in climate control. Leaves absorb or deflect solar heat and improve air quality. Foliage density has an effect on wind speed and direction. Root systems act as a watershed and reduce storm runoffs. Never forget that trees are our friends.

Some asked how to tell if a mushroom is poisonous to humans.

According to my SAS Survival Handbook, you must break off a piece and rub it on your underarm. Wait an hour.
If there is no allergic reaction, break off another piece and rub it on your chin. Wait an hour.
If there is no allergic reaction, break off another piece and rub it on your lower lip. Wait an hour.
If there is no allergic reaction, break off another piece and chew it and spit it out. Wait an hour.
If there is no allergic reaction, break off a small piece, chew it and swallow it. Wait two hours.
If there is no allergic reaction, you can presume the mushroom is safe to eat.

I wrote back to the author and told him I would have died of starvation by then.

The most recognisable tree in the rainforest.

Tongkat Ali
(Eurycoma longifolia)

Compound leaves with terminal leaflets. Crowded at twig tip. Lovely to look at. Tastes awful as heck.

Daun Payung (Literally, Umbrella Leaf)

(Johannesteijsmannia altifrons)

Most railroad sleepers are made of Kempas, a durable hardwood. Disused railroad sleepers are often reclaimed by the construction, furniture and landscaping industries.

Penaga Lilin pyrotechnics!

The most distinctive feature of the Penaga Lilin is its leaves, which crack and pop when burnt. This is due to the fact that its elliptic leaves have a waxy white underside (to reduce water loss by transpiration) which acts as a waterproof sealant. The trapped air-space pops and cracks when burnt.

"Trees have always been talking to us but we have forgotten how to listen."
- Michael Roads


mamasita said...

Great posting with tremendous eye-opening info as always..Hai Ee Lynn!
Thanks dearie..

Ellen Whyte said...

Nice tree pics, Ee Lynn. ANd with you on the mushroom testing!

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Mama weeps looking at the pix....you know....she used to work there yonks ago. Anyway, they didn't teach you how to make herbarium specimens or teach tree identification techniques? Mama said in the old days, officers had to pass three subjects - tree identification, wood identification, and prepare herbarium specimens - to be confirmed. Serious! On top of the government General Order examinations. You should hear her telling Dad what that tree is, this tree, that fruit, wherever they travel. purrr....meow!

Pat said...

I enjoyed this post, E!!! Lots of interesting info.

And your mushroom-testing story: is that for real?!

And thanks for hugging that tree! Whenever I meet a great specimen like that, I have an insane urge to do - and I do, do! - exactly that! Lovely to find another tree-hugger :)

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Mamasita,
Thank you for enjoying this post! I know so many of us love trees but just never had the opportunity to get to know our local trees better!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Ellen, Au and Target,
Thanks for liking the pics! The poisonous plants test applies to everything -- leaves, fruits, seeds -- and not just mushrooms. If I were in a survival situation, I'd stay away from mushrooms because some can kill without you showing any allergic reaction during the initial tests.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-from-Sydney,
I was hoping your Mama would drop by this blogpost and give me some tips and pointers! We enjoyed the workshop so much. We are merely laypersons, and some participants are teens, and so they couldn't give us too much info to absorb in a single day. We covered 16 different indigenous plants. Our next workshop will be on the "Foreign Stars of FRIM". I want to learn all about the cannonball tree!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Pat,
I have always sensed you are a fellow treehugger. Doesn't it feel so good when we lean against a tree? When we put our ear against the trunk, we can actually hear the tree's lifeforce... all those nutrients and fluids going up and down the tree like a pulse.

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Foreign Stars? I bet the first one they'll talk about will the magnificent mahoganies lining the Foxworthy Rd and then the majestic casuarinas leading to the DG's office. The humongous buluh betung clump (interestingly, not native to Malaysia) should be in the list, as well as the araucarias and acacias. Enough said. Have I made you salivate for more? Buy Mama a cappucino and she'll be putty in your hands. purrr....meow!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-from-Sydney,
Please tell your Mama I would love to meet up sometime soon! I'm off to China for a conference next week, so anytime at the end of June or in July would be great! Love and hugs to all you kitties!

Angie Yong said...

I agree with your assessment of the survival test...is that what you really really need to do? Love the edu session since I don't get to go on these sort of trips these days. Thanks Ee Lynn!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Angie,
Thanks for dropping by! We miss you at MNS meetings and activities too! Remember the KDCF Eco Kids Camp? We didn't know the names of the plants, haha! Most survival books do advise you to do the same thing. You just have to survive on your rations while you try to look for safe jungle plants to eat.